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Mitchell’s Defense Will Be Crucial To Making USA Roster

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – USA Basketball announced their 20-man training camp roster on Monday morning, which included Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and former Ute and current Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.

The two have something in common that none of the other 18 players have. Both Kuzma and Mitchell will be playing at the international level for the first time in their basketball career.

Even the other new player to the senior national team, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics has international experience, playing for the United States at the youth level.

USA Basketball, which is led by managing director Jerry Colangelo and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich both like the talent that Mitchell and Kuzma bring and could be that youth movement to the next generation of basketball talent to play for Team USA.

“Each player (Mitchell, Tatum and Kuzma) have already made their mark during the early part of their career,” Colangelo said. “We are really excited about the youth. You need to have some kind of balance as we continue to develop our infrastructure and keep it smoothly moving forward as it relates to our national team rosters. These three young guys are certainly worthy of being where they are for the various reasons. We are excited to have them in camp.”

Popovich wanted to have a mixture of experienced veterans and young talent on his preliminary roster for the FIBA World Cup, which will take place in China in August.

“It was important in the selection that there were older and experienced players, younger players who are going to become stars as time moves on,” Popovich said. “So, if you look at this group of 20 guys, you are going to find everything from very young to a little bit older and I think that is important for the mix.”

Mitchell’s Defense Is Key

Colangelo and Popovich held a teleconference with the media on Monday and took questions as to why they selected certain individuals to the training camp roster, but Colangelo hinted at what Donovan Mitchell needs to do to make the 12-man roster that will go to China.

“Mitchell hit the NBA regular season as a rookie and never looked back,” Colangelo mentioned. “He showed that he can compete with the very best. He has pretty good size, he has quickness, he’s very athletic. The thing that we are looking for is defense and he has the ability to be a real factor and that can be probably the best way for him to make a roster spot and that is to play incredible defense.”

Mitchell has elevated his game each season since he was drafted in 2017, especially on the offensive end, posting a career-best 23.8 points per game after his sophomore season with the Jazz. The young Jazz star knows that he needs to emphasize defense and has stated that many times during the season.

Kuzma’s Versatility Caught National Team’s Attention

Colangelo was very complimentary on Kuzma as well because of his ability to score, but also play multiple positions. Popovich wanted to bring in players who could space the floor and play multiple positions for different lineups.

“Kuzma made a mark for himself at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp (NBA Combine) and really benefited himself,” stated Colangelo. “He went into the NBA and has shown a lot of improvement in LA despite their troubles on the court team wise. You look at his strengths and his ability to play a few positions, size, shooting ability, range, versatility and he is a tough guy. You need toughness in this competition.”

The United States will hold training camp in Las Vegas from August 5-9.